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Choose to Challenge Gender Bias at Work: Part II

At Crowley, women’s leadership is an essential component to the success of our organization. During Women’s History Month, we celebrate their contributions and the perspectives provided through their own voices.

EN ESPAÑOL || READ PART I

Being faced with challenges and overcoming them leads to innovation. We can all choose to challenge, call out gender bias and celebrate women’s achievements as part of creating a more inclusive workplace and world. This year we #ChooseToChallenge on social media and other platforms and listen and learn from women in our company about their experiences. 

What does “Choose to Challenge” mean to your career?

Coto: For me, it means stepping out of my comfort zone. Always keep a positive mindset when it comes to trying something new. When I choose to challenge, I see it as an opportunity to demonstrate to others and myself that I can achieve things that I didn’t imagine I could. One time, I was asked to develop a fuel procedure on one of our terminals. Something totally new for me. At first, I felt a bit anxious and with doubts but decided to change my mindset. I did that by reminding myself to enjoy the process and focus on the experience every challenge provides. The biggest lesson for me was to prove others, but mostly myself, that if I don’t know something, I will find a way to learn and do it.

Cowan: Personally, it’s about advancing my personal and professional growth as a mariner by pursuing education to further my knowledge and skills. Onboard the ship, it means having confidence in my unique strengths and abilities, putting my knowledge to work and seeking opportunities to hone my skills and lead by my work ethic. All these combined increases my performance and value.

Frizzelle: Simply put, choose to challenge means taking on the challenges that come my way to the best of my ability. An example of this is when I got my Class A commercial driver’s license. I was told by many people I was making a mistake, to quit, that I couldn’t do this job because I was a young woman. Here I am, over five years later, doing the same job I was told that I couldn’t. I took on the challenge of becoming an over-the-road truck driver knowing this industry is not at all easy. I am still doing the job and loving it.


“In the workplace, my perspective is that the only person you should compete with is yourself. If someone is doing better, take a look at yourself and see what needs to be improved and work on it to get to where you want to be.”

Bianca Cowan


What advice would you give women who are challenged in a male-dominated industry?

Coto: Never doubt yourself and your capacity. Never give up; keep trying because you are the one setting your own limits. It is vital to create a positive impact and lead the way for those who look upon us or make the one’s not looking to notice our work.

Cowan: Be professional, have a good work ethic and lead by example. Make it a goal to be proficient at your job, excel at it and continue to develop new skills. Any opportunity you have to participate in a new project outside your responsibilities or comfort zone, go for it. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and make mistakes.

Frizzelle: My advice is to keep the negative away. Keep your head up while you do your job; stay away from those who will put you down as they don’t contribute to your development. There is a good amount of helpful and nice people wherever you are, be closer to them. Life is too short to keep negative people around.

How do you celebrate other women’s achievements and your own?

Coto: For others, I talk about it and spread out the word and encourage other women to continue pursuing their dreams. For my own achievements, I celebrate them with my family, friends, and coworkers. I see sharing my experience as motivation to demonstrate that we can achieve anything if we believe in ourselves.

Cowan: That’s a hard question. While maritime industries overall make conscious progress in female representation, there’s still work to be done. But whenever I find out about a female’s achievement, I recognize it with a heartfelt congratulations to their hard work. The same goes for me; I acknowledge my own effort when reaching my goals.

Frizzelle: I’m always excited to know about someone else’s achievements. Being genuinely happy for them and congratulating them is something I always do. For myself, I’m always happy I accomplished a goal I had set and look forward to the next challenge that comes my way! Knowing I do my job well makes me happy; that’s my own celebration.

woman raising hand

“I decided to change my mindset. I did that by reminding myself to enjoy the process and focus on the experience every challenge provides. The biggest lesson for me was to prove others, but mostly myself, that if I don’t know something, I will find a way to learn and do it.”

Ivana Coto


How would you encourage others to keep challenging gender bias?

Coto: A few ways are by giving equal opportunities on projects or tasks and promoting teamwork. With collaboration between diverse members, you achieve a more wholesome result than doing it by yourself. This can also bring new and positively surprising results, as the perspectives enrich the outcome.

Cowan: Gender bias can make itself known in many subtle ways. I would encourage others to be mindful of the tasks they assign or are assigned to. As a woman officer, it can be easy to be assigned certain duties regularly because other tasks may be perceived as too difficult. It’s good to do tasks that you know you do well. However, it’s crucial to our continued growth to request and be given challenging job duties to expand our knowledge and skill set.

Frizzelle: A combination of positivity, solid advice and sharing knowledge can go a long way. Not just for women but anyone in the workplace. I think we can all help others try and reach their own goals.

How can women better enable each other instead of competing? What needs to change in your opinion?

Coto: First, we need to stop comparing each other because we are unique. We need to remind ourselves that nobody is more or less than anyone. Also, start seeing other women’s achievements as our own. Most women are working hard to open new opportunities to other women in different industries, opportunities we’ve never imagined possible. I support that and encourage others to do the same.

Cowan: In the workplace, my perspective is that the only person you should compete with is yourself. If someone is doing better, take a look at yourself and see what needs to be improved and work on it to get to where you want to be. Competing with each other holds us back. We need to work together to challenge bias when people think we shouldn’t work in some areas or industries because we are not as good as our male counterparts. It’s essential to encourage, develop and guide each other as women. The more we succeed, the more this line of thought goes away.

Frizzelle: Enabling female representation in the industries we’re in is one way to go. As women, we can open doors for more women to work with us and help each other succeed. In terms of change, I think the trucking industry would benefit from being open to having more women being out on the road like I am at Crowley.


“I was told by many people I was making a mistake, to quit, that I couldn’t do this job because I was a young woman. Here I am, over five years later, doing the same job I was told that I couldn’t. I took on the challenge of becoming an over-the-road truck driver knowing this industry is not at all easy.”

Ashlyn Frizzelle


Who is your role model and why does she inspire you?

Coto: There are several female role models I look up to, but Madam C.J. Walker has caused an impact on me recently. She was the first self-made African American woman millionaire in the early 1900s. She had a clear vision of what she wanted and didn’t let anything, or anybody tell her she wouldn’t be successful. Her perseverance and confidence inspire me to always believe in myself and overcome overwhelming challenges.

Cowan: My mom is one of my most significant role models. She has taught me perseverance, compassion, humility, being a good listener, not being afraid of hard work, and taking ownership of anything I do. In the marine sector, Connie Savander, a naval architect, is another woman I look up to. I’ve been able to see her work through Crowley’s Oregon tanker and others. She makes critical decisions regarding the vessel’s steel condition and needed repairs. She is assured, holds her own, and is steadfast in her determination to stand up for her work. This is inspiring, and I am always in awe of it.

Frizzelle: I don’t have a specific person I consider my role model. I think we can learn from everyone we interact with. Personally, I take bits from everyone I come across, which has improved my development. I’m always open to listen and learn from different women in the world and their success stories.

What’s something that has made you feel inspired recently? 

Coto: I read an article titled “Nadie sabe de lo que es capaz”/”Nobody knows what they’re capable of” by Emilio Santamaria. The message is that if you never try, you will never know what you’re capable of achieving. Also, how we should replace the phrase “I can’t do it” with “I can do it.” It inspired me because it’s true. Once you step out of your comfort zone, you get to know what you can accomplish.

Cowan: I watched “Community First, A Home for the Homeless,” a documentary about a planned community located in Austin, Texas. Their goal is to offer the homeless a new beginning, including medical and counseling services to meet each individual’s challenges. They also have access to learn and develop new skills to become independent and contribute to their community. It inspired me what a difference combined effort can make to turn around lives. It was a good reminder that working to lift people up to become stronger makes us all better and helps us succeed.

Frizzelle: I love what I do; that in itself is a great motivator and inspiration for me. As a line haul driver, I get to see so many amazing things out on the open road. My perspective about most things in life is that you need to find happiness in everything you do. That mindset will make your work and life more enjoyable.

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

Crowley is a privately held family- and employee-owned company providing worldwide logistics, government, marine and energy solutions since 1892. We have over 6,000 high-performing team members in 35 countries and island territories, who are diverse, encouraged, and deliver on their commitments. We are Crowley, People Who Know.